Skelos: Let’s Not Rush Into Anything

ALBANY—Dean Skelos, the Republican leader in the State Senate, is putting the brakes on a Democratic proposal to give members of his conference committee chairmanships.

“Senator [John] Sampson’s proposal to appoint new chairs should be considered along with these other recommendations, by the bipartisan committee, before any action is taken,” Skelos said in a statement. “Our conference strongly believes that additional reforms must be made in a comprehensive way and not in a piecemeal fashion.”

Last January, a joint committee formed to examine restructuring the chambers rules and issued a report that senators never formally acted on. Republicans protested the final product, but attacked Democrats for sitting on it. After a Republican-led coup in June, some reforms to the chamber’s rules were adopted, but a re-structuring of committees was not included.

Skelos and Sampson met Monday to discuss the possibility of Republicans chairing some committees, which was seen as a hedging move by Democrats in a chamber they control just 32-30. Since then, two of the three Republicans who had been mentioned for the possible plums—Senators George Maziarz and Joe Robach—indicated to me they might have interest. But not Skelos’ verbiage: he says “our conference” and not “I,” and an aide indicated that he has been in regular contact with Maziarz and Robach (as well as Senator Tom Morahan, the third potential target) since Monday.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Democratic leader John Sampson, said that he is “committed to creating a more bi-partisan and effective Senate and he looks forward to continuing to work with the Republicans on passing critical legislation to millions of New Yorkers.”

Skelos’ full statement is below.

On Monday morning I met with Senator John Sampson to discuss committee changes he is contemplating.  We discussed how to make our committees and the way we operate more bipartisan, and I agree that should be our goal.

        The reforms that our conference proposed and fought for earlier this year will no doubt improve our ability to work on behalf of the people of this state.  We believe, however, that more needs to be done.

        In January, a new Temporary Committee on Rules Reform, co-chaired by Senators John Bonacic and David Valesky, was formed.  The committee held public forums and hearings across the state and, though the Majority Report recommended only minor changes at the time, Senate Republicans made it clear that much more needed to be done.

        Senator Bonacic, and the other Republican members of the Committee, Senators George Winner and Joe Griffo, proposed additional recommendations to make the committee system more bipartisan, more transparent and more effective.  These reforms were not embraced by the Majority but we were successful in adopting many of them following the leadership dispute in June.

        The Bonacic-Valesky committee has been reviewing other reforms, including reducing the number of standing committees and limiting the number of committees members can serve on.  In addition, Senator Bonacic and other Minority members have put forward other recommendations that were not adopted in June.

        Senator Sampson’s proposal to appoint new chairs should be considered along with these other recommendations, by the bipartisan committee, before any action is taken. Our conference strongly believes that additional reforms must be made in a comprehensive way and not in a piecemeal fashion.

         We fought hard for the reforms that were enacted in July.  We will continue to push for internal reforms, as well as other governmental reforms to make this Legislature and our government more responsive to the people’s needs.  We need stronger ethics rules, a spending cap, and measures such as initiative and referendum to restore public confidence in government and give people an even greater voice.